With so many aspiring to be a social media influencer these days, the numbers here have burgeoned in recent years, with many flooding our social media space with their carefully curated posts, well-coiffed hair and impeccable style.
Hold your brickbats though. Say what you will about this group of social media savvy individuals, it’s undeniable that some of them have a celebrity-like status and yield quite a bit of, well, influence, especially among younger audiences.
Of course, there’s no shortage of sagas when there’s that many of them. While most of these trendsetters are in the spotlight for the right reasons, some unfortunately end up gaining notoriety after landing themselves in undesirable situations. From scuffles among themselves to sexual harassment accusations and photoshop fails, there’s plenty to talk about.
Here are some scandals that have rocked the influencer world in the past two years.
Popular socialite Jamie Chua, known for her large collection of Hermes bags which she stores in her luxurious wardrobe, drew flak when she posted an Instagram Story that was deemed “insensitive” by netizens. On April 21, she posted a snapshot of a cup of coffee with a caption complaining about waking up in the middle of night by a “disturbing nightmare”, which involved “the Indian workers dorm and they were all rushing into my house”. She went on to say that she has been affected by the “recent cases” and is “suffering from mild anxiety”.
The post was criticised for being insensitive towards migrant workers. She subsequently posted a lengthy apology on Instagram Story that evening, saying that she realised her post was “insensitive and ignorant”, and calling the incident “a big learning lesson”. Jamie also highlighted that she would be donating to two charities that support migrant workers.
Influencer Christabel Chua (@Bellywellyjelly)’s private videos with ex-boyfriend of four years and fellow YouTuber Joal Ong were leaked and disseminated without her permission after Joal Ong’s cloud backup system was hacked. Christabel was not the only one—more than 50 sex tapes belonging to Joal were purportedly released. Investigations are underway.
Christabel later wrote an open letter, which was published in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore, acknowledging how the incident had left her “scared, humiliated, violated”. She became the subject of lewd discussions and received rude and inappropriate messages. To her, “the Internet became a major source of pain and torment”, she shared. She went on to say that she stands against cyber bullying and sexual harassment, and hopes that those going through a similar situation will reach out to those around them and find strength to carry on.
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I wrote this on the 15th of April 2018. At that time I felt like no one could understand and I felt helpless. As you read this, I hope you feel like it is okay to feel like no one understands. I hope you feel brave enough to reach out to someone. In support of @samaritansofsingapore’s #ThroughTheNight movement for suicide prevention week, please know that you are never alone. Reach out to someone, talk about it ❤️
A post shared by CHRISTABEL 🦋🌻 (@bellywellyjelly) on
In a move that raised eyebrows, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) partnered with more than 50 social media influencers to promote Budget 2018 on Instagram. Several posts peppered with hashtags like #SGBudget2018 and #MOFSGxStarNgage sprung up in January, with these personalities highlighting various pre-Budget feedback listening points and the REACH Pre-Budget 2018 microsite. An MOF spokesperson said it was “an effective way to engage with youth participants”, and they had paid them in line with market rates.
However, the initiative drew mixed reactions, with many questioning the effectiveness of the campaign beyond generating awareness. Some also pointed out glaring errors and typos, such as an influencer describing MOF as (gasp) the “Singapore Government of Finance”, while others lambasted the influencers for using irrelevant photos to spread the message.
Photo: Instagram/ kaitinghearts
The queen bee of influencers, Wendy Cheng or Xiaxue (@xiaxue), started an uproar after she raised questions on transparency and authenticity, pointing fingers at some influencers for being involved in a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme. The products involved are beauty products such as shampoo, hair oil, facial masks and collagen jelly from relatively unknown brands such as Wowo and Luxurious Queen (LQ) Singapore.
Xiaxue debated the ethics of advertising, stressing that she feels it’s wrong for influencers to advertise these products and claim that it’s their “honest opinion” when they benefit from the sale. She also said consumers had a right to know that the posts were ads, and went on to poke fun at some of the products’ claims. “Next thing you know, Wowo can solve the Syrian crisis,” she joked. The distributors — some of whom are well-known personalities such as Hong Qiu Ting (@bongqiuqiu), Tammy Tay (@ohsofickle) and Donna Goh (@ponyyzz) — later came out to debunk claims that these are MLM products. They said they are actually doing direct selling, and they are only selling the products because they personally love them. Drama!
Photo: Instagram/ Xiaxue
Hell hath no fury like a fan girl scorned. In this case, fan girls were not scorned. They were made fun of and lied to as part of Dee Kosh’s “social experiment”. The local DJ had posted an “unpopular opinion” that all BTS songs sounded the same. It, of course, ignited a fan war, as fans largely disagreed with his opinion. Some even went on to personally attack him on Twitter and the next day, he claimed his YouTube channel was “gone”. He went on to (fake) cry on camera, accusing fans of being bullies. He later announced that it was all part of a social experiment and that he had only hidden his channel. Many were upset by his antics and a petition was started to ban him from their upcoming Singapore concert.
Passes Remarks About The “Morbidly Overweight”, Sparks Arguments Online
Xiaxue ruffled some feathers in a recent Instagram story when she took aim at “morbidly obese” people.
She said, “It’s one thing to be chubby or fat but this is way past that. Most morbidly obese people don’t live past 40.”
She added, “I’m talking about the morbidly obese – so these people, if you approve of their lifestyle, or you tell them that they’re beautiful, they should stay the way they are, you are approving of them dying.”
Her story went viral and she received backlash for her words. People started sliding into her DMs with their own personal critiques of the blogger.
Unfazed, Xiaxue posted more Instagram stories to make her point, and cited plus-size model La’Shaunae Steward, 23, as an example.
She said, “The morbidly obese (like La’Shaunae Steward, @luhshawnay) should never be seen as attractive. Irresponsibility isn’t attractive”.
This comment was then brought to the attention of La’Shaunae, who retorted, “Why are thin people this obsessed with letting me know indirectly they think I’m unattractive to them, therefore I’m not worthy of love, a career, being visible and literally telling me the age I’m going to die?
“I don’t owe weight loss to anyone. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why I’m fat or don’t exercise. I don’t have to prove my health.”
To top things off, Xiaxue uploaded a digitally altered photo of herself, with bigger arms, body, face and legs, to prove her point.
She wrote in the caption: “Never did fat shame. All my comments were reserved for the MORBIDLY OBESE only, and yes people with BMI 50 and above shouldn’t be romanticised or glorified in the media.”
Argument With Singapore Influencer Oon Shu An
Following Xiaxue’s Instagram stories and post, Shu An, 33, responded with a photo of La’Shaunae on her Instagram, stating that the latter is beautiful, and thanking her for sharing her light.
In the caption, Shu An also states “How much media really glorifies fat people? Like properly glorifies them? How often are they made to look good? Desirable? A couple of magazine covers? A music video? A few runways for a diverse clothing brand (not even a mainstream one)?
“Most of the time, when they are featured, they are fetishized, they are ‘working hard’ to lose weight, casted as the sidekick, the comic relief, the joke.
“They’re barely even seen as full human beings.”
Xiaxue left a comment on the post, writing, “If she’s so beautiful why don’t you gain 150kg to go look like her? Practise what you preach,” adding, “Nobody is saying don’t treat fat people like human beings or they aren’t deserving of love. Don’t try and skew the message here”.
Refusing to let matters rest, Xiaxue posted a few scathing Instagram stories that accused Shu An of being a hypocrite.
However, the original post made by Shu An now has additional comments made by herself, including a statement that says “This wasn’t about Wendy and I, but i don’t want to leave things ambiguous, we have had a chat and we are cool. ♥️”
Says Greta Thunberg Is “Super Cringe”
In an Instagram story Xiaxue described Greta Thunberg as “so damn cringe”.
She posted the comment along with a photo of 17-year-old Greta, a climate change activist, at the United Nations Climate Action Summit.
The video of Greta’s speech during the summit had gone viral when she addressed world leaders and attendees confidently but in tears, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words, and yet, I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.”
This speech may have left many awed and inspired, but Xiaxue was not impressed.
She took to her Instagram stories to share her opinion, writing, “Can we please just stop it with these young kids who are so freaking passionate over issues that they view so one-dimensionally.
“She’s like… crying. For what ah? Is climate change gonna stop coz of her crying?”
The blogger received backlash for her comments, with many defending Greta for making an effort to fight for a cause, but Xiaxue remained firm with her opinion.
She wrote, “That crying girl is cringe AF and nothing you say can make me change my mind.”
The brazen Xiaxue is back at it again, this time with YouTuber Dee Kosh. In a video collaboration, the pair did some digging to suss out which social media influencer could have bought followers to inflate his or her numbers. Using a social media analytics site Social Blade, they tracked an account’s day-by-day growth and made their assessment by looking at the charts generated.
According to them, an Instagram account has genuine followers if the graph shows a gradual incline, suggesting a consistent and reasonable amount of followers gained per day. Influencers who are likely to have purchased followers are likely to see sudden spurts in their graph. One of the influencers they investigated suddenly gained more than 3,000 followers on a particular day, while another showed an almost 90-degree spike. Marketers, beware.
Chelsea Teng (@cheowster) was distraught after her visit to cafe Luxe Singapore in May turned awry. In her Facebook and Instagram posts, she detailed how she and a friend stopped by the Australian-style cafe for a quick ice-cream break and were allegedly pestered by the owner to buy a drink. “C’mon, are you just going to have ice cream? You’ve already taken pictures here, used our space – get a drink! Coffee?” he apparently said. When she told him she was heading to another cafe, he reportedly stormed away.
Before she left, he approached her and told her off, saying, “owners have rent to pay, so if you’re gonna take up space in the restaurant, you should at least get more than just a scoop of ice cream”. He later messaged her on Facebook apologising for his “outburst” and offered her and a guest a free brunch as a way of saying sorry. Chelsea updated her post saying she was glad to hear that they’ve reflected from the mistake and would treat their customers professionally in future. A month after the spat, the restaurant announced that it has closed its doors, with reports saying it owed more than S$100,000 to its landlord and suppliers.
Photo: Facebook / cheowster
Elaine Heng (@elaineruimin, known as Elaine Jasmine online) caught flak after Trixie Khong, owner of local jewellery brand By Invite Only, called her out on Facebook for accepting payment and pieces of jewellery from the brand and then failing to make any posts about them. Apparently, Elaine was engaged by Trixie for a series of sponsored posts. After receiving the items and money, Elaine went MIA and was uncontactable for weeks, prompting Trixie to eventually ask for her money and products back. When there was still no response, so she went on to comment on an Instagram post. Elaine eventually replied and refunded everything in full.
The influencer later defended her actions in a live Instagram story, saying she didn’t follow through because she didn’t like the jewellery pieces and felt they were low quality. She claimed she told Trixie she wanted to refund the money and return the items, but payment was delayed as she was travelling extensively and had no wifi in some parts. Since the news broke, at least two other brand owners have come out to say that they have encountered similar treatment from Elaine. She later apologised for her “unprofessional behaviour and the unhappiness” she has caused, adding that she will focus on improving her work ethic.
Photo: Instagram/ Elaineruimin
A recruitment video by social media influencer community Faves Asia drew massive backlash, with many criticising the piece for misrepresenting the influencer community and showcasing influencers as shallow and materialistic. In the video, an aspiring influencer is seen chatting about her favourite Instagram personality and lamenting about her own lack of followers. Her friend recommended her to (but of course) Faves Asia, and two months later, aspiring influencer is seen living a glamorous life, eating with friends at a cafe, doing her nails and attending a beach party. A few months later, she’s seen sitting in a Maserati, surrounded by men with bouquets. The driver quips that she has so many fans now, which led her to reply that she didn’t expect Faves Asia to give her so much exposure.
The video was slammed heavily for being unrealistic and even spoofed by comedian Preetipls and blogger MrBrown. Faves Asia later apologised, explaining that they exaggerated the storyline to make it more humorous, adding that it was never their “intention for the video to paint an inaccurate representation of the industry”. Go figure.
Photo: Instagram/ terencechen
In December last year, Chloe Teo created a stir when her lengthy piece on blogging site Dayre detailing how she allegedly got “five-timed” by then-boyfriend Ashry Owyong Min went viral. According to her, they started dating after meeting on Tinder and things seemed rosy, with the pair even going on a trip to Boracay in the Philippines together. Turns out, Ashry supposedly had a girlfriend, who contacted her after seeing her Instagram stories. Teo claimed she started receiving messages from other women who said they too had dated Ashry and he cheated on them, and she realised he was seeing at least three other women and a man.
What followed was epic — she exposed a long list of his behaviours, including the fact that he lied about being in Special Operations Force, how he would make her pay for his cab rides and was driving without a license. They have since broken up. According to Yahoo Singapore, Ashry was fined $2,200 in January and barred from driving any kind of vehicle for a year after he was caught at a police roadblock along Yio Chu Kang Road in September last year for driving his girlfriend’s car without a license. Separately, Chloe was back in the spotlight in July after she posted an Insta-story showing her Grab Hitch driver driving at a speed of 192 km/h. Her Instagram account (@chlowee.e) is now private.
Photo: Dayre/ Klowheee
Known for collaborating with local Instagram influencer Andrea Chong, Daryl Aiden Yow (@darylaiden) found himself in hot water in June after Mothership outed him for taking stock photos, or photos from other sources, doctoring them, and then implying or claiming that they were his own. What’s more, these photos appeared as both paid and unpaid content. Mothership’s post sparked an Internet storm, leading fellow influencers, photographers and netizens to weigh in on the saga, denouncing his behaviour and criticising the quality of his Photoshopped work. A hashtag #darylaidenchallenge also emerged — a hilarious parody feed that shows cheekily ‘photoshopped’ pictures of popular stock images.
Since then, Daryl has apologised, saying he was wrong to have claimed stock images and other people’s work as his own. “Having marketed myself as a photographer, I fell far short of what was expected of me and disappointed those who believed — or wanted to believe — in me. For all of that, I apologise,” he added. A day after his apology, he deleted all photos from his Instagram account and only started posting new content again in September. He has since rebranded himself as a “Photoshop Specialist”. Good recovery.
Photo: Instagram/ darylaiden
The founder of SgInstaBabes came under fire in August after he offered access to a group of teenage girls in a controversial membership programme that required monthly payments of up to S$5,000. A former bodybuilder, Lai Wee Kiat launched the programme on the website Patreon, promising subscribers photos of the girls in his SgInstaBabes collective in revealing outfits such as bikinis. He also said they would be able to join them on private yacht parties. His initiative drew sharp rebuke, with many pointing out that this was akin to social escort services. Others were concerned about the age of the girls involved and questioned whether the programme would put them at risk of sexual exploitation.
Xiaxue, one of his most vocal critics, went on to allege that he had exchanged inappropriate messages with a 15-year-old girl. In a series of screenshots she posted in her Instagram Stories, a man can be seen cajoling a 15-year-old to send him bikini photos, and had described her as “crazy hot”. He also tried to ask her out on a date.
SgInstaBabes’ Instagram and Patreon page were taken down shortly after the backlash. Wee Kiat said in reports that there was “nothing sleazy about it” and “there is nothing beyond partying and fun”, adding that events under the membership programme would be held in groups. He later said if the page were to go live once again, he would no longer be in charge.
Photo: Instagram/ Xiaxue
Youtuber and actor Eden Ang, known for acting in local drama Tanglin, was accused of sexual harassment in January this year by a girl who went by the name of Kuroe Kun on Facebook. In a Facebook post, she claimed that her friend, who was hired for Eden’s YouTube channel, was touched inappropriately by him. She also claimed he asked her friend to strip down to a top and underwear and her friend complied out of fear. Fellow YouTuber and influencer Dee Kosh then came out with screenshots of texts between the girl, who was hired to be his personal assistant, and Eden. Eden allegedly asked her to “cover up” on a Tuesday, and then to “dress different” on a Wednesday. She replied that she would prefer to dress professionally on both days, to which he replied “Good girls listen to daddy”.
After the news broke, “Lilith” came forward in an Instagram post saying while there were some discrepancies in her friend’s account, Eden did touch her, even though she had repeatedly told him no. She also said she would be filing a police report. Following the hullabaloo, more came forward to accuse Eden of being inappropriate. Model-actress Melissa Faith Yeo said Eden sent her rude messages that demanded she spend some intimate time alone with him. She also said a friend met up with him while they were in New York and he had put his hand up her skirt after he went to her apartment requesting to use the bathroom. Later, he allegedly texted her and called her “spoilt” for not having sex with him. Former national gymnast Nicolette Lim also came out to say Eden had apparently sent her lewd messages that commented on her pubic hair and underwear. Eden posted a statement on his official Facebook and Instagram accounts saying he has reported the “hurtful and false allegations” to the police. He has remained silent on his social media accounts since.
Photo: Instagram/ lithekitty
Melissa Koh’s (@melissackoh) August 2017 wedding hit the headlines after some guests were reportedly annoyed to find that it was heavily sponsored. Her wedding was a lavish affair, with a flower bar where people could design their own hand bouquets, a counter where makeup artists can give guests a makeover using Dior cosmetics, and wedding favours in the form of TWG tea, macarons and artisanal soap. In the days that followed the wedding, Melissa went on to post shoutouts to various brands involved in the wedding, such as crystal brand Swarovski and luxury jeweller Tiffany & Co.
Guests interviewed by The Straits Times said they felt cheated as the sponsorships made the wedding feel insincere, while others said they felt they didn’t need to give too much in their ang bao (red packet) since virtually everything was paid for. Some also said she should have declared the various sponsorships to guests prior to the wedding. Melissa and her husband James Chen later said they did seek sponsorships, although “most came to us”. They also said they did not profit from the wedding. “We did receive sponsorships, which gave us the means to celebrate in the way we did, but there were still large costs involved in the wedding,” they said. A storm in a teacup?
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The whole discussion started when a Twitter user @JEDD1E tweeted “are singaporean youtubers not tired of the same secondary school content from 2013????????”
This tweet that has since garnered over 5,000 retweets and over 7,000 likes, and it was inevitable that JianHao would come to know about it. The CEO of Titan Media took it to Twitter and Instagram to reply to the tweet.
He tweeted: “This is also the same group of people who say “Singaporean YouTubers only do types of listicles” but don’t watch anything else we upload lol”.
On Instagram, he wrote: “So yeah maybe I am tired of making sketches. But not because it’s anything negative but because it requires a TREMENDOUS amount of hard work, time and effort.”
He added, “4 MILLION+ subscribers, BIGGEST channel in SG. And we didn’t get to where we are today by doing ‘same content’. Anyone with a brain should realise that.”
He also then shares the other channels which provide the other forms of content he does, stating, “Some really meaningful videos there that you’re missing out on.”
Sheena Phua, a Singapore influencer with over 76k followers on Instagram, got into trouble last year when she posted about “2 huge obstructions” that were blocking her view at one of the F1 concerts, accompanied by a photo of two Sikh men. People inferred the “obstructions” to be the turbans worn by the men shown in Sheena’s Instagram Story.
After receiving public backlash for this Instagram Story, Sheena then took to her IG to apologise, clarifying that she was referring to the two men’s heights. She also mentioned that her message had been “misinterpreted” and she wasn’t being “racist and culturally insensitive”. She later also accepted an invitation by a Sikh group to learn more about their community.
On the April 14, a TikTok creator by the username @boonki, who has 13.5k followers, uploaded a video in which she said: “I don’t know who needs to hear this, but, if there’s something you always wanted to do, like, learn a new language or read a book, and by the end of circuit breaker you have not accomplished that, or even worse, you have not even started, you never lacked time. You lack discipline! Time for you to get your sh*t together, and start accomplishing your goals!”
The video has clocked over 100k views on TikTok. However, her words rubbed people the wrong way.
Twitter user @KH4IR reposted it on Twitter, with the caption “nobody needs to hear this shut the **** up”. The tweet has since gotten over 2,000 retweets and over 3,000 likes.
While a few Twitter users defended @boonki and said her points were valid, others disagreed.
The original creator of the video then went to Instagram and stated her reasoning for making the video in the first place.
She said that whatever she was only trying to remind and motivate people through the video and did not expect to offend anyone.